Dez of Thunder

Despite sickle cell disease, Marjorie Dejoie keeps rolling.

By Frank Rubino
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Aug. 13, 2008

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Picture of health: The Boot Camp Mania instructor is an inspiration to her exhausted charges. (photo by michael persico)

Midway through one of the grueling, crack-of-dawn fitness sessions she leads every Tuesday and Thursday, the mercurial "Dr. Dej"--her do-rag dripping, her T-shirt soaked, her athletic shoes perpetually moving--suddenly goes off.

"What is that?" her piercing voice implores over loud workout music that pulsates off mirrors lining the walls of a dance studio inside Center City's 12th Street Gym.

Dr. Dej, aka Marjorie Dejoie (pronounced dez-shwaah), glares at one of the 20 or so young and middle-aged adults, her target a forty-something guy who isn't executing a barbell curl properly.

"You're not doing it right! You're not going to get anything out of it doing it that way!"

Dejoie simmers before adding, "No one forces you to wake up early and come here! And I'm just gonna have to ask some of you who aren't interested in doing the moves right to not come anymore!"


Two mornings later, at the next session of Dejoie's Boot Camp Mania class, the guy returns undaunted, as do all of his classmates.

Dejoie doesn't apologize. Nobody would want her to.

"It's not your typical exercise class," says 29-year-old social worker Kate Spencer, who began faithfully attending Boot Camp Mania in May. "She's trying to inspire us, trying to push us to our limits."

On a 1-to-10 difficulty scale, Spencer, an ex-rugby player, rates nearly all of Dejoie's sessions a 10.

"It's a struggle," says super-fit Anthony Trosclair, a sinewy 33-year-old who started showing up at Boot Camp Mania two years ago. "I enjoy it, but it's a struggle."

Boot Camp Mania fuses free-weightlifting with uber-demanding cardio workouts. Students prance on and around aerobic steps in ways one has to see to believe, jump rope, do push-ups, crunches, pull-ups and all sorts of painful maneuvers involving tension belts and exercise balls.

They also run up and down flights of stairs. And negotiate tortuous obstacle courses. And do handstands while scaling the walls with their feet. And pump iron. And every now and again hustle to the water fountain under Dejoie's command to "Hydrate!"

"I definite wouldn't call it moderate exercise," laughs Spencer.

Although Dejoie also teaches spinning, the rigid nature of Boot Camp Mania has endowed her with something of a cult following at 12th Street, perhaps because she herself engages in all the madness she puts her "troops" through.

Except that she does it better than them. Even when she's feeling awful.

"Actually, I've heard some of her toughest classes are on days when she's sick," says Wayne Booker, another trainer at the gym.


Dejoie is sick a lot because, as nearly all her students know, she suffers from sickle cell disease. Better put, she suffers greatly from it.

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1. Mary Ellen said... on Aug 15, 2008 at 06:02AM

“Marjorie is a great spinning instructor! She has definitely inspired me to motivate myself to exercise regularly. Her style is perfectly demanding. I don't want to disappoint her by being lazy or not giving 110% in class. She has made a positive impact on my life. Go Marj!”

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2. eratzman said... on Aug 21, 2008 at 12:36PM

“Boot Camp has been a staple of my week on and off for two years now. I haven't worked out so hard since high school wrestling. Marj's yelling "face it!" echoes in my head as a mantra for facing daily struggles. Boot camp is tough love, and Marj our fearless leader.”

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3. Mimose Pierre said... on Aug 26, 2008 at 02:47AM

“She is absolutely amazing. I am in awe of her because I have been struggling to get fit and obviously I have no excuse. I am also walking on the National Stomp Out Sickle Cell Walk and found this article on her which I am emailing everyone. We need to find a cure for Sickle Cell Disease. You can find out more about Sickle Cell Disease at www.soswalk.org. There will also be a walk for Sickle Cell Disease in Philadelphia on September 28, 2008 Nichole”

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4. Nichole King-Campbell said... on Aug 26, 2008 at 03:47AM

“She is absolutely amazing. I am in awe of her because I have been struggling to get fit and obviously I have no excuse. I am also walking on the National Stomp Out Sickle Cell Walk and found this article on her which I am emailing everyone. We need to find a cure for Sickle Cell Disease. You can find out more about Sickle Cell Disease at www.soswalk.org. There will also be a walk for Sickle Cell Disease in Philadelphia on September 28, 2008 Nichole”

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5. Mimose Pierre said... on Nov 15, 2008 at 11:46AM

“Ti Jo or Semore as I call Marje lovelingly is my best friend and my niece. I wii do all in my power to improve her health. As a cancer survivor she teaches me a lot and give me strenght. Thank you to all of you who embraced her. She is a lovely woman. I hope and pray that her days among us are many to come. With love auntie Mimi ”

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